Friday, August 30, 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon, VILLA SAN JULIETTE, Paso Robles, California

The story begins with the reality seriesCorkscrewed: The Wrath of Grapes that followed the trials and exploits of award-winning entertainment producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick as they made a major investment in their long held dream – owning their own vineyard. Childhood friends from the backstreets of Liverpool who produce the huge US prime time hit, American Idol, Ken and Nigel have the Midas Touch.  The beautiful 168 acre vineyard in Paso Robles, California is quickly developing into another HUGE Success for this team!
  • Cherry
  • Plum
  • Cedar
  • Cocoa
  • Clove
  • Raspberry
  • Vanilla

MATT ORTMAN, WINEMAKER, grew up the son of a well-respected winemaker, surrounded by vineyards and wine in the Napa Valley, Matt's own wine making career started at the age of 12 when he unsuccessfully attempted fermenting apple juice. But, Matt desired to build skyscrapers and bridges as a Mechanical Engineering major at Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo. After this an older, wiser Matt had an epiphany after enjoying a bottle of wine that his father had given him and his bride, Lisa. Realizing he wished he had pursued wine when he had the chance growing up, he took a cellar position at Castello di Gabianno winery in Tuscany. Upon his return to California, Matt joined his father in launching the Ortman Family Vineyards brand.  After learning his craft from true master artisans, Matt is now winemaker with Villa San-Juliette. He believes strongly in the region and feels that the estate vineyard lies in one of the pockets capable of creating exceptional wines. The combination of soils, aspect, and elevation are what will allow him to create wines of richness, depth, and character which will stand up to the quality of the landscape and tasting room experience. This is an exciting wine from and exciting place; ready to make your dinner more exciting, tonight!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Meritage, ESTANCIA, Paso Robles, California

In 1999, Estancia planted nearly 700 acres of vineyards in the acclaimed appellation of Paso Robles. The infertile soils and rugged terrain of Estancia’s Keyes Canyon Vineyard, encourage the vines to yield small fruit clusters with tiny berries packed full of rich berry tones. This unique appellation is home to more extreme temperature swings than any other wine-growing region in California. During the day, the vines bask in the warm sunshine and at night they are soothed by a cool marine layer from the Pacific Ocean.

  • Complex
  • Dark Black Cherries
  • Anise
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Chocolate Powder
  • Soft Oak
  • Luscious

Varietal Composition 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot.  Oak Aging 14 months.

Pronounced; MEHR-ih-tihj. The name Meritage (a compound of the words merit and heritage) was chosen from over 6,000 entries in an international contest held by a group of vintners who sought to establish standards of identification for a category of American blended wines made with traditional Bordeaux grape varieties.  Instituted in 1989, the term Meritage is a certification mark registered with the U.S. Department of Trademarks and Patents. To be designated as Meritage, a wine must meet the following standards: 1. It must be a blend of two or more Bordeaux grape varieties- 2. It must be the winery's best wine of its type; 3. It must be produced and bottled by a U.S. Winery from grapes that carry a U.S. appellation; and 4. Its production is limited to a maximum 25,000 cases per vintage.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon, MAGNOLIA GROVE, by Chateau St. Jean, California

Magnolia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon's label evokes a relaxed elegance that is synonymous with the Sonoma County lifestyle and feeling one will experience when traveling and staying in a Starwood Hotels.  This wine was created for Starwood Hotels by Chateau St. Jean to meet the expectations of their consumers who are knowledgeable, yet unpretentious about their wine selections.
  • Black Cherry
  • Soft Tannins
  • Cedar Spice
  • Vanilla
  • Oak

Grapes are sourced primarily from vineyards in the Central Coast and the Northern Interior of California.  Fermented in stainless steel tanks with a portion in French and American oak, the majority of the fruit goes through malolactic fermentation, lending richness and creamy mouthfeel.  Use of oak is intended to complement the brightness of the fruit and its structure without overpowering the palate. Excellent results from a great partnership.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon, JOSEPH CARR, Napa County, California

The Joseph Carr wines really bring together the best vineyards and talented wine making into the bottle and then selling that at fare prices.  The vineyard sources for this Cabernet Sauvignon are first rate; Rutherford, Stags Leap District, Pritchard Hill and Red Hills.  You will frequently find the juice from the neighboring vineyards selling for twice the price and more.  I applaud this endeavor for making quality and keeping it affordable.

  • Dark Cherry 
  • Ripe Plum
  • Ripe Black Currant,
  • Smoke
  • Vanilla
  • Cocoa Dust
  • Firm Tannins

Joseph Carr wines are produced at Larson Family Vineyards in Carneros, bordering both Napa and Sonoma Counties. A beautiful property built over a hundred years ago by Tom Larson's grandfather; this is where they crush, barrel ferment, blend, and age all of the Joseph Carr wines.  Tom owns over a hundred acres of vines in Northern California, as well as managing 500 acres of some of the finest boutique vineyards in the valley. In this place the people can be creative, laugh a lot, and work together to produce handcrafted wines, unhurried, in a state of the art facility.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cabernet Sauvignon, JOSH CELLARS, North Coast, California

Joseph Carr's wine making team jokingly refers to this as a “vin de garage”  after work they like to sit around  wine cellar they call “the garage” and tinker with things.  Grape growers and friends come by and lend a hand,  laugh, tell stories and produce a winemaker's wine that we make just for ourselves; a handcrafted wine.  And, now they are sharing this with with you and me; named after Joseph Carr’s father, Josh, and they are expressive, but unassuming and approachable – just like Josh Carr was.

  • Cherry
  • Black Currant
  • Spicy 
  • Berry
  • Oak

The grapes are from a single vineyard in the mountains of the Red Hills at the highest section between the Vaca and Mayacamas mountain ranges. The Mayacamas are famous for great Cabernet wine, due in part to ancient pyroclastic soils that contain volcanic glass. Josh Cellars North Coast Vineyards contain obsidian gravel that allows the soils to drain well, which is extremely important for growing Cabernet grapes. The high elevation sunlight combined with the rich volcanic red soils and obsidian fragments produce quality grapes that are extremely unique to the Red Hills. The vineyard itself sits on an East facing slope with varying altitude from 1200 to 2000 feet. The average daytime summer temperature is 84 degrees with an average nighttime temperature of 51 degrees. Handpicked at the peak of flavor development, crushed and cold soaked for 24 hours; punched down three times a day to maximize flavor extraction. Followed with a 10-15 day extended maceration. Barrel aging in new American oak and 1-2 year French oak for 16 months.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chardonnay, JOSEPH CARR, "DIJON CLONE", Sonoma Coast, California

California estate vineyards with traditional French techniques makes this Chardonnay delicious.  The vines are Dijon Clones 75, 76, 95, 96  growing in the Sonoma Coast region. The Growers picked the grapes by hand at the peak of ripeness and the winery gently pressed the grapes into juice using a membrane press. The juice was then chilled, settled, and racked into Burgundy oak barrels for fermentation. The yeast lees were hand stirred monthly to enhance the creamy finish produced by barrel fermentation and to encourage secondary malolactic fermentation. Less than 1,200 cases were produced.
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Vanilla
  • Butter
  • Citrus
  • Tropical fruit 
  • Creamy Butter
  • Toasty
In 2009, New York Times writer Eric Asimov proclaimed Joseph Carr to be “a producer to watch”, and put his wines alongside the likes of Far Niente, Clos du Val, Heitz, Grgich Hills and Rubicon. Mr. Asimov continues to comment that these are “wines of balance and restraint”. As director of Joseph Carr Napa Valley, Joseph continues to work with many of the associates he has met throughout his long career in restaurants as a Sommelier. Influenced by the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Joseph Carr's winemaking philosophy is balance, sophistication and approachable. Since launching his business in 2005, Mr. Carr's wines have been received with great enthusiasm. His wines grace some of the finest restaurant lists in the United States and abroad.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


All champagne producers are judged by the quality of their Brut non vintage wine.  How well they make this wine year in and year out demonstrates their mastery of the true Art of Champagne blending.  Perhaps the one house that does this better than anyone else is Veuve Clicquot. Their Brut Yellow Label is made from the superb vineyards they own with a predominance of Pinot Noir for structure, a Clicquot signature, with a touch of Pinot Meunier to round and soften the blend, with a bit of Chardonnay for elegance and finesse, essential to this perfectly balanced wine.

  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Plump Raisins
  • Vanilla
  • Toasty Brioche
  • Spice
  • Echoing Finish

The Brut Yellow Label is so widely popular the bottle has become iconic, because the wine inside is so utterly reliable both in terms of quality, color and bouquet.  The experienced and well trained Clicquot Cellar Master skillfully achieves total consistency of taste by drawing from priceless reserve wines for the blend: from 25 to 35%, sometimes as much as 40% of the wine in this NV (Non-Vintage) bottle is made up of these older wines - perhaps nine-years old.  This is just one of many reasons why Champagne is one of the greatest wines in the world, and when compared to it's peers, the other great wines of the world, Champagne remains a bargain.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chardonnay, MAGNOLIA GROVE, by Chateau St. Jean, California

Magnolia Grove Chardonnay's label evokes a relaxed elegance that is synonymous with the Sonoma County lifestyle and feeling one will experience when traveling and staying in a Starwood Hotels.  This wine was created for Starwood Hotels by Chateau St. Jean to meet the expectations of their consumers who are knowledgeable, yet unpretentious about their wine selections.

  • Pineapple
  • Ripe Peach
  • Lemon Zest
  • Vanilla
  • Oak

Innovative techniques for wood aging are used; toasting the oak at lower temperatures for longer period of time. This "lower and slower" process brings out more sweetness and vanilla in the wine than traditional methods,making the flavors in this wine comparable to Chardonnays that sell for twice the price.  Grapes are sourced primarily from vineyards in the Central Coast and the Northern Interior of California.  Fermented in stainless steel tanks with a portion in French and American oak, the majority of the fruit goes through malolactic fermentation, lending richness and creamy mouthfeel.  Excellent results from a great partnership.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

2013 Rambling Rosé at Becker Vineyards

 It was a beautiful Saturday in the Texas Hill Country AVA,Saturday August 10th, 2013.  It is harvest time and on this occasion we were celebrating another great vintage of the Becker Vineyard's Provencal!  We figure this was about the ninth year of doing this tasting.  This is one of the many Culinaria events that take place year round in celebration and support of the culinary arts in South Texas.  We thank every one who participated in this worthwhile endeavor

It was great to see that the category of rosé wine is more popular than ever, both seating for this event were sold out.  The attendees were already rosé wine  drinkers and enthusiast.  This is great news because this is a category of wine that Texas can make in quantity and quality that rivals the best rosé wine in the world.  I thank the Becker's leadership in making this wine and providing this forum to develop our knowledge and experience with rosé wine.

We tasted the rosé wines blind, blind tasting is the only way to accurately judge and assess the quality of any wine.  The picture above shows the six wines at the start of the tasting.  The colors are beautiful and varied from pale pink, often called salmon, to richer pink hues that can become fairly red in appearance.
My notes and review of the wines are below following the order they were presented with the top left wine being the first and the bottom right being last.

Le Poussin Rose, Languedoc-Roussillon, France 2012
High acidity making the first sip bracing and intense, followed by cranberry, raspberry and sour red fruit flavors.  There are secondary flavors of earthy tones and a floral flourish in the finish.

Belle Glos, Pinot Noir Blanc, Brugioni Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, California 2012
A smoky aromatic nose with flavors of strawberry, raspberry and a pronounced minrality. There are hints of tannins and fruit is persistent throughout the taste experience, making this a delicious and rich wine.  

Provencal, Becker Vineyards, Tallent Vineyard, Texas Hill Country, 2012
Strawberry and tart cherry aromas and flavors with a dusty minrality.  There is a light musty note with a hint of orange peal in this balanced well made wine.

Alexander VineyardsRosé, Grand Vin de Bordeaux, France, 2012
A pretty floral nose, blooming flowers and Prosciutto ham, beguiling combination that is appetizing.  The flavors are tart and tangy with a subtle effervescence with white cranberry fruit.

Balandran, Rosé, "Les Mugues" Costières-de-Nîmes, Rhone, France 2012
A bit of orange spritz on the nose with subtle flavors of strawberry and a smooth flavor experience with a satisfying finish.

I'M (Isabel Mondavi), Deep Rosé, Napa Valley, California 2012
Aromas of cola and cherry with a smoky background, the flavors are rich with cherry and vanilla with a lush mouth feel and a persistent finish.

All six wines are excellent and would make for an enjoyable selection for your next bottle of wine.  The cuisine for the event was prepared by Chef John Brand of the Omni Hotel on the Riverwalk.  It was a duck confit and it clearly demonstrated how well rosé wines pair with food.  If you are ever in doubt on which wine to pair with almost any meal you can reach for a bottle of rosé wine, it is very food friendly.  The ultimate test that proves this is Thanksgiving dinner; the turkey, the ham, dressing, potato salad, green bean casserole, cranberry relish and everything else on the table will go with rosé wine!  

Do you have a favorite rosé wines?  Please comment below...